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17. La Terrasse
These struggles with the natural character, the strong native bent of the heart, may seem
futile and fruitless, but in the end they do good. They tend, however slightly, to give the
actions, the conduct, that turn which Reason approves, and which Feeling, perhaps, too
often opposes: they certainly make a difference in the general tenor of a life, and enable it
to be better regulated, more equable, quieter on the surface; and it is on the surface only
the common gaze will fall. As to what lies below, leave that with God. Man, your equal,
weak as you, and not fit to be your judge, may be shut out thence: take it to your Maker -
show Him the secrets of the spirit He gave - ask Him how you are to bear the pains He
has appointed - kneel in His presence, and pray with faith for light in darkness, for
strength in piteous weakness, for patience in extreme need. Certainly, at some hour,
though perhaps not your hour, the waiting waters will stir; in some shape, though perhaps
not the shape you dreamed, which your heart loved, and for which it bled, the healing
herald will descend, the cripple and the blind, and the dumb, and the possessed, will be
led to bathe. Herald, come quickly! Thousands lie round the pool, weeping and
despairing, to see it, through slow years, stagnant. Long are the 'times' of Heaven: the
orbits of angel messengers seem wide to mortal vision, they may enring ages: the cycle of
one departure and return may clasp unnumbered generations; and dust, kindling to brief
suffering life, and, through pain, passing back to dust, may meanwhile perish out of
memory again, and yet again. To how many maimed and mourning millions is the first
and sole angel visitant, him easterns call Azrael.
I tried to get up next morning, but while I was dressing, and at intervals drinking cold
water from the carafe on my washstand, with design to brace up that trembling weakness
which made dressing so difficult, in came Mrs. Bretton.
'Here is an absurdity!' was her morning accost. 'Not so,' she added; and dealing with me
at once in her own brusque, energetic fashion - that fashion which I used formerly to
enjoy seeing applied to her son, and by him vigorously resisted - in two minutes she
consigned me captive to the French bed.
'There you lie till afternoon,' said she. 'My boy left orders before he went out that such
should be the case, and I can assure you my son is master and must be obeyed. Presently
you shall have breakfast.'
Presently she brought that meal - brought it with her own active hands - not leaving me to
servants. She seated herself on the bed while I ate. Now it is not everybody, even
amongst our respected friends and esteemed acquaintance, whom we like to have near us,
whom we like to watch us, to wait on us, to approach us with the proximity of a nurse to
a patient. It is not every friend whose eye is a light in a sickroom, whose presence is there
a solace: but all this was Mrs. Bretton to me; all this she had ever been. Food or drink
never pleased me so well as when it came through her hands. I do not remember the
occasion when her entrance into a room had not made that room cheerier. Our natures
own predilections and antipathies alike strange. There are people from whom we secretly